DENVER – Vince Carter scored 25 points and Richard Jefferson had 24 as the New Jersey Nets cruised to a 101-92 win over the short-handed Denver Nuggets, who added star Carmelo Anthony to their ever-growing list of injuries.

Kenyon Martin scored 26 points against his former team before being ejected with 65 seconds left.

Anthony sprained his left ankle just 1:09 into the game and the Nets built a 55-40 halftime lead, then held off the scrappy, injury-riddled Nuggets on their way to their second straight road win that evened their record at 7-7.

Anthony drew a foul while driving to the basket and falling hard to the floor. He stayed down for a minute, then hobbled off the court during a timeout. He returned and sank both free throws before going to the trainers’ room. X-rays were negative.

Without Anthony, averaging 21.6 points and six rebounds in 14 games, the Nuggets fell apart before fighting back in the second half.

Jason Kidd added 13 points and Jeff McInnis 12 for New Jersey, which led by as many as 20 points before settling for a 15-point halftime cushion.

The Nuggets cut it to single digits and rookie Linas Kleiza’s jumper brought the Nuggets to 77-70 heading into the fourth quarter. His driving bucket made it 81-75, but Kidd scored three points in a 7-0 New Jersey response that made it 88-75.

Martin’s basket cut it to 88-80 with 4:54 remaining and his free throw with 3:25 left made it 88-83, but the Nets didn’t let the Nuggets get any closer. And soon Martin was done for the night.

Carter was fouled by Martin with 1:05 left and both Martin and Denver coach George Karl drew technical fouls for arguing the call and Carter sank all four foul shots to make it 97-87.

Then, during a timeout, Martin drew another technical and was ejected. Carter’s free throw made it 98-87.

Denver never really gave itself a chance, missing 17 of 47 free throws.

The Nuggets, who also got 24 points from Earl Boykins, have been hampered by injuries more so than any other NBA team this season.

In training camp they lost Bryon Russell (knee) and then in the opener, Nene tore an ACL, ending his season. Marcus Camby (right leg) and Martin (surgically repaired knee) have been in and out of the lineup lately, and Francisco Elson (concussion) missed the last game.

Camby had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his return to the lineup Monday night.

Karl lamented Nene’s injury in particular while discussing his injury-riddled front court before tip-off.

“I think Nene, in a subtle, subconscious way left us a little naked, left us a little, you know, edgy,” Karl said. “It’s not that we’re scared or fearful. When we had Nene, we had this confidence, this toughness, we could afford an injury, we could afford foul trouble, we could afford to play different ways against different styles, and we had all the answers for everything.”

Now, Karl patches together a lineup, never quite sure who will be suited up and who will be in a suit.

Notes: The Nets have 999 wins in franchise history. … Camby played without a protective black sleeve on his leg that he had taken pains to note was different than the tights worn by players such as Kobe Bryant this season. “I don’t wear pantyhose,” he told reporters.

AP-ES-11-28-05 2346EST


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